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Transcription Project of Rare Chinese Orthodox New Testament Now Underway

Mitrophan Chin

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Through the sponsorship of several Orthodox Christians, microfilming of a two-volume rare Classical Chinese Orthodox New Testament has been completed by the Imaging Services at Harvard and stored at the Harvard-Yenching Library with a duplicate microfilm held by the Chinese Orthodox Translation Project. This rare Bible, the only extant copy known to exist, is now afforded some protection with the microfilm. The results of which allows for accessibility to those who may have no opportunity otherwise to see the original copy.

This Orthodox New Testament translation was completed in 1864 by Archimandrite Guri (Karpov) from the Slavonic into Classical Chinese in two volumes of the Gospels and Epistles. He had native Chinese speakers Nikitas and Moisej (Moses) to proofread it for intelligibility. This translation project took Fr Guri about six years to complete while he was the head of the 14th Russian Spiritual Mission in Beijing. After he left the Mission in 1864, his translation eventually received a blessing to be used at the Russian Mission. In spite of this, it eventually fell into obscurity as later Missions promoted more colloquial translations of the New Testament, so that the non-intelligentsia among the Chinese can understand.

In 1955, one copy of this rare Classical Chinese Orthodox New Testament found its new home at the Chinese-Japanese Library of the Harvard-Yenching Institute, later renamed the Harvard-Yenching Library. It has been catalogued under TA 1977.5 C1864.1.

Publishing the original images of this New Testament will require permission from the Curator of the Rare Books Collection at Harvard-Yenching Library. On the other hand, transcription of the original images into searchable text format is encouraged, and volunteers are actively sought. A fellow parishioner who is currently a Harvard student also volunteered his time in June 2006 in burning the microfilm onto CD as one large 65MB 411 page pdf file, an invaluable contribution to the transcription project.

Anyone interested in typing this New Testament into Chinese text, please contact Nelson Mitrophan Chin at mitrophan@orthodox.cn who will coordinate volunteering efforts. You can request to transcribe a book of the New Testament, or if time is limited, just request a page or even a passage to help with. Once completed, the text will be automatically converted between traditional and simplified Chinese and made available online at http://orthodox.cn/liturgical/bible/nt/. In addition to using the original Greek, this Classical Chinese Orthodox New Testament can be served as an invaluable reference for a modern Chinese Orthodox translation of the New Testament, that is both faithful to the original languages, yet simple to read and hear to the modern ear.

Read the entire article on the Orthodoxy in China website (new window will open).

Posted: 14-Jun-06



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